* Charterers managing fixture activity -broker
* Capesize rates softer on Thursday after earlier gains
* Panamax rates to fall on charterer-owner stand-off -broker
By Keith Wallis
SINGAPORE, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Rates for capesize bulk carriers on key Asian routes could slip next week as charterers manage fixing activity to put a ceiling on freight prices, brokers said.
Major iron ore miners including Vale, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton have taken turns entering or exiting the market over the past two weeks, manoeuvres that have led to choppy rates as they seek to limit rate increases by charterers, brokers said.
"Only Rio Tinto is in the market today, but its fairly quiet," said a Singapore-based capesize broker.
"Fortescue Metals Group has stayed out," the broker added after FMG chartered six capesize ships during the past week, Reuters chartering data showed.
"Vale is not doing anything" after being active early last week, the broker said.
"A bumpy ride and mixed signals," Norwegian ship broker Fearnley said of the capesize market in a weekly note on Wednesday.
Rates for voyages from Australia to China and Brazil to China were being pushed lower on Thursday compared with Wednesday's close, the Singapore broker said.
"Rates will be coming off next week, but they won't be pushed too far," he added.
Freight rates for the Western Australia-China route were around $8.80 per tonne on Thursday, the Singapore broker said.
The compared with $9.00 per tonne on Wednesday's close. While this was unchanged from last Wednesday, rates fell at the end of last week before bouncing this week.
Rates for the Brazil-China route closed at $21.70 per tonne on Wednesday compared with $22.15 a week ago although they have climbed since last Friday after rates dropped.
Rates in the smaller panamax market will continue to slide next week as owners and charterers engage in a rate stand-off with owners unwilling to accept low rates offered by charterers, a Singapore-based panamax broker said on Thursday.
Rates for a panamax transpacific voyage fell to $9,602 per day on Wednesday against $10,881 per day last week.
Freight rates for smaller supramax bulk carriers firmed on increased activity out of Indonesia with rates around $10,000 per day, according to Fearnley.
The Baltic Exchange's main sea freight index closed at 1,306 on Wednesday, down from 1,327 points last week. (Reporting by Keith Wallis; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath)